OAKLAND, USA - Stephen Curry has called on the Golden State Warriors to build on the momentum of their remarkable comeback win over Oklahoma City as they prepare to face LeBron James and Cleveland in the opening game of the NBA Finals on Thursday, June 2 (Friday US time).
The Warriors begin the defense of their NBA crown at the Oracle Arena on Thursday in a dream repeat of last year's finals, which saw Golden State win the title against an injury-hit Cavaliers team.
The Cavaliers have arrived in California firing on all cylinders, with their big three of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all fit and ready as they bid to avenge last year's 4-2 series defeat.
The Warriors meanwhile arrived in the finals after a Houdini act against the Thunder in the Western Conference finals, coming back from 3-1 down to complete a stunning 4-3 win on Monday.
Two-time NBA MVP Curry told reporters Wednesday the Warriors were brimming with belief after their win over the Thunder - and urged the Dubs to unleash the same sort of hunger against the Cavs on Thursday.
"We have to bring that same mentality that got us out of the hole 3-1 to game one with the score 0-0," Curry said.
"And if we can do that and play with that same hunger and that same fire as if we're playing in an elimination game, I really, really like our chances.
"But that's going to be the challenge for us to, against a different team with a different game plan - bring that same mindset and take advantage of home court in game one."
Curry agreed the Warriors may benefit from being battle-hardened after their pulsating series against Oklahoma City.
"We have a lot of confidence right now and we've been through a lot in the last week and we've been challenged physically and mentally," he said.
"There's a lot at stake the last three games, so that's put us on edge, for sure."
Curry led the scoring for the Warriors with 36 points in Monday's game seven win over the Thunder, with coach Steve Kerr believing that his star player is approaching his best after a knee injury earlier in postseason.
Kerr said Wednesday he believed Curry's smiling, laidback demeanor masked a ferocious competitive spirit which had been pricked by perceived digs about his achievements.
"Steph is extremely competitive in a very humble way. He doesn't have to say anything," Kerr said.
"He does his talking through his play, basically. But he definitely is motivated by things that people say about him or things that he reads or anything like that. One of his greatest attributes is his competitive fire. A lot of people don't know that because of his demeanor, but he's an incredible competitor."
Kerr suggested that part of Curry's drive may stem from the fact that he was ignored by the biggest schools during his college career. "I'm sure that was part of it," Kerr said.
"He's kind of always been the underdog, and all of a sudden he's the two-time MVP. That's a strange situation. Hardly any players have ever done that."
Lord of the rings
Curry meanwhile rejected suggestions that he sees himself as the logical successor to LeBron James as the face of the NBA.
"That's not what I'm playing for, to be the face of the NBA or to be this or that or to take LeBron's throne or whatever," he said.
"You know, I'm trying to chase rings, and that's all I'm about. So that's where the conversation stops for me.
"I'm not in the business of ranking or debating who is what. At the end of the day it's about winning and the fact that we won a championship last year and were the last team standing, obviously is what was most important to me."
James meanwhile sought to draw a line over his perceived snub of Curry recently when asked about his MVP award.
"Steph was definitely the MVP of our league and is the MVP in our league and is a great basketball player, and what he does for this league is amazing," James said. – Rappler.com